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 A Speech to End All Peace: Round Up of Comments on the Bush Middle East Plan
 Israel, USA
 June 25, 2002
 
Marcia Freedman, member of the Knesset from 1973 to 1977; spokesperson for the American Jewish anti-occupation group Brit Tzedek v'Shalom

What Bush has done is given Sharon almost everything he wanted. Why that was done, from the point of view of American foreign policy and American self-interest, is beyond me, frankly. Other than the sop of calling on Israel to pull back to the Sept. 28, 2000 position and halting settlements as well as releasing the more than $1 billion in foreign tax revenues Israel is holding, he's given Sharon everything he has wanted, and has been angling for, for the past year.

He does not call for the establishment of a state. He only conditionally calls for the establishment of a provisional state, whatever that is. He's agreeing with Sharon's demand that he won't negotiate with Arafat. From the point of view of an organization like Brit Tzedek v'Shalom that's calling for an organized solution based on 1967 borders, the only positive thing in this speech is the fact that he explicitly mentions the willingness of United States, the European Union and Arab states to work together to reestablish the Palestinian government both politically and economically. Clearly, it's absolutely critical right now to rebuild the Palestinians' political and economic institutions, which have been systematically destroyed over the past three months.

[Other than that,] the Bush plan is counterproductive. He can call on the Israeli government to pull back to the Sept. 28, 2000 line, but it won't happen. So how can the Palestinians possibly have new elections when nobody can travel from one city to another? The entire political infrastructure has been destroyed. How are people who are living under almost total curfew on a daily basis supposed to hold an election?

Bush is also calling for a halt to settlements. That's not going to happen either. President Bush has been calling for a halt to settlements since he took office, as did his father. Over the past year, 65 new settlements have been established. There was no recognition in the speech that the Israeli army has Palestinians confined to eight cantons, and that its army is reassuming the occupation by reestablishing permanent bases within Palestinian population centers. If one can say the aim of the current Israeli government is to set the clock back to before the Oslo negotiations, they've succeeded, and the Bush administration, both with this speech and with its entire non-policy, has sanctioned it.

From Salon.com, June 25, 2002.

Meredith Tax, President of Women's WORLD

How wonderful that George W. Bush is willing to hold others to his own high standards in respect to transparency and democratic process, even if that means overthrowing their elected leaders. Let democracy come to Palestine indeed, and after that to US allies like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, and even Israel, where 20 percent of the citizens are increasingly disenfranchised because they are not Jewish. And to teach the world how we manage democracy in the USA, Women's WORLD also suggests that the President appoint a special roving team of consultants, to be called the "Hanging Chads" and led by the Republican politicians who managed the 2000 Presidential election in Florida.

Shamai Leibowitz, a young Israeli lawyer and reservist in the Israeli Army, and one of the group of soldiers who have refused to serve in the occupied territories [See the Courage to Refuse website]

". . . We, the refusal movement, will continue to grow until thousands of Israeli soldiers announce enough is enough . Then, hopefully, this land which has been battleground for so many years will become a place of refuge, vision and hope for all its inhabitants. . ."

I am an Orthodox Jew and a criminal defense attorney in Tel Aviv. I am also a tank gunner in reserve duty, and part of a group of 1000 soldiers who have refused to serve in the occupied territories. Many of them were imprisoned in military jails in the past few months.

Now that President Bush has enlightened us with his new "Plan" for the Middle East, we can only wonder how long it will take him to realize that his plan is useless and meaningless. Although his speech was riddled with rosy descriptions he envisions for the utopian Palestinian State in the far future, George W. Bush managed to avoid any mention of the present situation in the same parcel of land where all these wonderful things are to materialize. No mention of the fact that all West Bank cities had been invaded by Israeli military forces; that hundreds of thousands of inhabitants are imprisoned in their homes by a strict curfew, and that civilians appearing on city streets are being shot at like dogs by Israeli tanks and Apache helicopters.

His failure to understand that no progress can be made while a whole nation is being brutally occupied is the basic flaw in his policy, and serves as the best explanation why his Middle East plans have consistently become colossal failures. Bush's delusional thinking that he can change the Palestinian leadership by delivering a speech is mind-boggling. The American President thinks he can just do away with any leader in the world he dislikes. This kind of thinking is going to cost us a lot of bloodshed. It is only a matter of time until Bush's "new outline" will turn to ashes as the flames in this region reach higher and higher. Instead of offering a glimmer of hope, his plans resemble the famous Biblical burning bush, i.e. more of the same (see Exodus 3;2). This means more Israeli occupation, which will result in more terror and more fatalities.

Clearly, the terror attacks are abhorrent. They have no justification in any sane polity. However, no amount of condemnation will stop them. Bush fails to comprehend that the suicide bombings are a product of mass starvation and humiliation of the Palestinian people. Bush's aides are doing us so much harm by refusing to acknowledge that only an immediate end to the Israeli occupation will bring an immediate end to the Palestinian uprising.

We are now witnessing a situation in which 3.5 million people have no future, no hope, no vision, other than to become terrorists and avenge the continued harassment and shelling by the Israeli army's helicopters, tanks and artillery. While Bush has never set foot in this region, we have been living here, watching how the Palestinians were trampled and denied basic rights on a daily basis, besieged and occupied in every possible way. Our Jewish sources teach us that where there is no justice, there is no peace. The idea behind the Oslo accords, namely that we could "negotiate" a peace agreement while remaining the Occupying Power, has proven to be romantic nonsense. Can you expect a rape victim to negotiate with her attacker? Can you expect a slave to negotiate with his master a "contract of freedom"?

Most Israelis know deep in their hearts that once we stop humiliating and oppressing this nation, we will return to become a safe and secure democratic Israel living next to a viable Palestinian State. Most intelligent people in the world understand that the Palestinians had a right to a state of their own many years ago. And there should have been an Israeli-Palestinian border marking the two completely separate sovereign states. There is only one institution in the world that is blind to this: the Israeli government.

This means it is up to us, Israeli soldiers, to defend ourselves. Defend ourselves from our government. And this can only be done through refusal to participate in the occupation.

It is our opinion that an Israeli soldier refusing to dominate and starve millions of Palestinians is defending his state in the best possible way. The reason is simple: If enough soldiers refuse, we will eventually force our government to relinquish its death-grip over the West Bank and Gaza. And this will save thousands of lives.

In a famous Jewish quote found in the Talmud, it is said: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me?" After Bush showed us how warped his understanding of reality is, he's left it to ourselves to save our nation from complete demise. We will push Bush aside, and do the job ourselves. We, the refusal movement, will continue to grow until thousands of Israeli soldiers announce enough is enough. Then, hopefully, this land which has been battleground for so many years will become a place of refuge, vision and hope for all its inhabitants.

Ofer Shelach, Israeli journalist

A big smile must have spread over Ariel Sharon's face at listening to the Middle East speech of his good friend George W. Bush. After all the hesitations and delays, the highly publicized power struggles between the State Department and the Pentagon, the tense waiting and the inaccurate advance leaks (which included the briefing by the White House spokesperson, an hour before the speech itself)—after all these, the leader of the Free World came out with one single meassage: anything but Yasser Arafat. The man with the beard must go—in a free democratic way, of course. How many other people will be gone by then, ours and theirs, the president did not say. It is common to say that following September 11 the Bush Administration is in the habit of dividing the world into goodies and baddies.

It is true, but not the whole truth: even before that terrible day in New York, the president has been consistently dividing the world into those who are like America and those who are not. Those who are like America have transparency and a free market, elections to change the government and independent judiciaries. Those who are not like America have nothing. Bush's message to the Palestinians is simple: if you become like us, we will help you improve your life; if you don't, we will just wait until you do.

The fact that a free market and an independent judiciary are impossible for a people under occupation does not appear to disturb Bush, member of a nation which saw no foreign invader on its soil for the past two centuries. Nor does the fact that legitimate self-defence against terrorism drags Israel into activities which perpetuate and aggravate that occupation interest a person who can send the marines anywhere he chooses and pull them out again at his discretion. And he does not seem to lose sleep even over the fact that while these contradictions bump against each other, the blood of hundreds of civilians is shed over here every month. As far as the White House is concerned, either a new America will arise here, or we will just have to wait. The White House is not concerned with many of us and how many of them will not survive to see that day.

So, Arafat is an obstacle—to his people, to us and to the region; a despicable fanatic. Still, peoples are not in the habit of changing their leaders at an order from Washington. Just 90 miles from the shores of Florida there is a country ruled, for more than forty years, by a man which the United States government despises and in whose overthrow successive administrations invested enormous efforts. The Americans impose a blockade on Cuba, starve its people to punish them for daring to adopt such a regime, and wait for Fidel Castro or his people to take the hint. They are waiting for a long time already. And what is true in Cuba is certainly true in the Middle East.

America can wait for the Israelis and Palestinians, and they can wait for America while shedding each other's blood. In the coming days, we will undoubtedly hear a lot from Sharon's aides about how this great diplomatic coup was achieved, due to Sharon's charm and Arafat's sins. We will hear how wonderful it is that the American president was convinced to sit on his hands a bit longer, to give some more time for suicide bombings and military operations to follow upon each other undisturbed. We will hear how we won some more time, time in which we can continue to live in fear, to become a bit more impoverished and bit more desperate with every passing day. "Anything but Arafat". The president said it. What a great victory.

It was a speech of encouragement to the rejectionists on both sides. No action of any kind was announced. No declaration was made of involvement—by the US alone, or together with its allies—in any effort to stop the intolerable bloodletting in one of the globe's most sensitive regions. There was nothing but the narrow worldview of a person who is willing to help everybody become an imitation American and wants nothing to do with anybody else. Nothing but a promise that, while the roses continue to bloom in the White House garden, the red spots seen on Israeli and Palestinian streets will be no flowers.

From Yediot Aharonot, June 25, 2002. Translated by Gush Shalom.